During my undergraduate degree, I did my final year project on garden wildlife and the factors that influence diversity. With aims to promoting the work of the RSPB in my local area of Reading, I essentially wanted to encourage bird feeding. Unfortunately much research and evidence has suggested that bird feeding is in decline, due to people hoping to avoid unwanted rodents coming into their gardens. The aim of my investigation was to see if this was really the case, with the aim to encourage bird feeding in domestic households over the UK.
I wrote to all the local newspapers in the Reading area requesting volunteers, and was bombarded with offers; selecting 24 bird feeding homes, with 24 neighbours that do not bird feed. This was a University run project and I was supervised during the project write up phase, but the conducting of the investigation was extremely independent, including method design and data collection.
The first stage was to measure the diversity of birds in their gardens. Stage 2 involved making a contraption to fit under the bird feeders provided by myself to measure how much feed fell on average from the feeder. Stage 3 measured how much feed if on the ground would remain over night, giving an indication of mammal presence (as birds were more likely to be asleep at this time). The final stage was identifying the mammal species present in the garden by recording footprints.
The results were amazing, although it was discovered that when compared with the gardens that did not feed birds there were indeed more footprints of small mammals, this was not a bad thing. The volunteers said the most worrying species were the rats and the grey squirrels, however our results showed an abundance of extremely interesting species such as shrew, voles and mice, along with hedgehogs and in some case muntjac.
This kind of discovery mean that the garden wildlife of bird feeders was a lot more diverse than before realised, and inspired some of the volunteers neighbours to begin feeding birds. I received a 1st for my work on this project, but it was also rewarding to have completely designed and completed a project that made difference in my local community at the time.